To offer access to a choice of tailored bereavement support to all those grieving in the UK and to those working with the bereaved.
Grief is one of those emotions that everyone will experience sometime in their lives.
The first time for me, was the death of my grandmother, coming at a time when I was 24 years old and pregnant with my second born.
My grandmother was like a mother to me throughout my childhood, the person that would take me and collect me from school, cook my dinners, brush and plait my hair, read to me at bedtime, and every weekend and most of the summer school holidays her home would be mine.
My memories with her were picking the apples from the tree, fresh raspberries from her garden and the smell of the freshly picked sweet peas that graced the kitchen windowsill. The weekly visit of the corona man where I was able to pick my own bottle of pop – often dandelion and burdock – and the big soft double bed waiting with a hot water bottle in, brushed cotton sheets encased with soft feather eiderdowns, and the smell of apples wafting from underneath where they were stored.
When I left home we always exchanged letters and she was so excited to see how my life would unfold…. Her health was ailing but it seemed that she spurred herself on to be around to share my special life moments with me… my wedding day – where pictures showed her rosy cheeks, tipsy from the sherry and a beaming smile – and the hats – she always wore hats ….
The news of the birth of my first born where my mother drove her the 100 miles, to be the first to cuddle her first great grandchild – oh the joy… and the conversations that she had with people after that visit. And not long afterwards I spent a week at my parents, where she moved in as well to savour every moment.
The news came that I was expecting again and of course she was as excited as we were.
The phone call came from my mother to say that she had died. But the main initial emotion was anger – I was told that my grandmother had been in hospital for 5 days and I hadn’t been given that opportunity to say my goodbyes…. I was told “because I was expecting, they didn’t want to upset me”. Sometimes decisions are made for us, without any input for ourselves.
As the years moved on, my husband lost both his parents – two very painful passings – one of bone cancer and one of Dementia and I witnessed him coming to terms with being an orphan – the pain of witnessing the pain of a loved ones loss of others, is almost, if not equal to the pain of losing your own loved one.
My introduction to grief on a larger scale was when I secured a role as Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages … When I first started the role, I expected to be faced with flood of tears and boxes of tissues readily available.
Bearing in mind that a death is legally required to be registered within 5 days of the death occurring, what I experienced over the next 15 years was the reality of peoples rawness and vulnerability that was all encompassing and engulfing the individual.
Each person sharing their own snippets of events that had unfurled in their own nightmare of reality. Some emotions I could relate to in my own experiences, others gratefully not so.
Some people laughed and joked, but you knew that they were crying inside. Some very relieved that a very long journey had finally ended, some wanting the process to be very clinical – the most emotional, the death of a very young person, and the registration of a still born child.
It is not a role for the light-hearted: in fact it was the start of a journey of vocation for me.
My personal characteristics matched the role perfectly and despite the slightly macabre nature, I had huge job satisfaction. Of course, the role was sandwiched between the joy of the weddings and the arrival of new born babies, so it was balanced well.
15 years of Registration experience gave me the solid foundation of what was to unfold over the next few years. My new role as a funeral celebrant, using the extension of the key skills needed in helping families give the best send off, in a Celebration of life funeral service, for their loved ones.
Funeral services have been, and continue to be, very traditional in approach, with the structure being the same as it has for many years. The family walking behind the coffin on approach to the chapel or church, the coffin being placed on the catafalque by the bearers, the family sitting on the benches, listening to the service delivery, yes standing and sitting for hymns and prayers – and other than chosen people, moving to share their eulogy, and then leaving after the service, very little intervention of personalised touches.
The conveyor belt of strictly timed services of 45 minutes, before the sighting of the next hearse waiting outside the doors, leaves little time for anything out of the norm.
The services have been softened slightly by the offering of picture and video screens where pictures of the deceased can be showing on the screen during the service.
Choices of music that once would be have been frowned upon and unheard off, have given way to personal choices of tracks such as Dire Straits, Queen, Matt Munroe and even Morecambe and Wise.
Natural burials give a wider choice, less timing restrictions, and more personal choices, and intervention of more people being allowed to make their contribution personally to the service in the form of singing , reading ,playing a musical instrument, dancing and decorating the coffin .
Focusing on the personal touches that bring about the strongest memories of an event, is of paramount importance to me ,and over the last 5 years, I have been working alongside couples and families , in gradually introducing ideas where groups of loved ones can assemble together and make memories in simple Rituals.
After losing 95% of my wedding ceremony business at the beginning of the year, I concentrated on bringing to fruition the introduction of” the Harmony glass experience,” and was truly thankful that I was able to give one family a brand-new personalised experience, at an extremely difficult time, during the initial COVID lockdown, at the beginning of this year.
Louisa, my client, had already seen my glass pieces and taken pictures to take to show her mum when she was alive , she was in a care home, suffering from dementia, and brought a beaming smile to her face when shown the pictures of the glass.
Louisa had no doubt that mum had already given her approval so was the right thing to do at her funeral, when she passed away suddenly not long after first showing her the glass .
Sadly, the death occurred within the restrictions of the COVID lockdown, but the family were able to ease the pain of the restrictions a little, by choosing a natural burial, and within a personally
written ceremony, each member of the family came together during the service and poured and blended their own individually chosen colours, together into a glass receptacle, which was a family heirloom .
After the service, the three family members, husband, daughter and son of the deceased couldn’t decide on what shape of Harmony glass to have as their memorial piece .
I found out that in their earlier years , the family had owned a fishing lake , and also that the deceased was born under the Piscean astrological chart. It seemed fitting for the husband to have a glass fish designed , her mum loved birds so Louisa chose a little bird, and the brother decided on a paperweight that could sit visually on his work desk.
It was a while afterwards that restrictions were lifted and the family were again able to come together to visit the glass studio to watch their blend of chosen glass crystals be skilfully transformed into their chosen shapes of glass art .
I have since heard from Louisa that herself and her family members take great comfort in having these pieces of art centrally place in their homes, giving the opportunity for many conversations of shared memories …
“ Making special moments into a lifetime of memories !”